The Belly of Paris (Le Ventre de Paris) is one of Émile Zola’s most wonderfully descriptive, humorous, and exciting fictions. Zola set his 1873 novel in the then-new Les Halles food pavilions in central Paris. Into this extravagance of food — which Zola describes in set pieces that wet the tongue, excite the ear, and stir up the belly — he places his young hero, the half-starved Florent, who has just escaped imprisonment in French Guiana. Florent finds himself at odds with a world he now knows is unjust. Gradually he takes up with the local Socialists, who are more at home in bars than on the revolutionary streets.
This intricate, beautifully detailed story of the markets of Les Halles — a story of wealth and poverty set against a sumptuous banquet of food and commerce — makes The Belly of Paris highly engaging reading.
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